Cut and Run: How Fallon Smart’s Killer Evaded Justice
Part I: The police investigation
Nearly six years ago, on August 19, 2016, fifteen-year-old Fallon Smart was struck by a speeding car as she crossed the street in Portland, Oregon. She suffered severe trauma to her head and body, and died moments later in her mother’s arms.
After the gold Lexus struck Fallon, it quickly sped away, only to return a few minutes later. Abdulrahman Sameer Noorah — a Saudi Arabian national attending college in the United States — identified himself to police as the driver.
Had Noorah’s arrest, prosecution, and imprisonment gone as most other criminal cases do, his nationality would be irrelevant, of course.
Instead, Fallon’s killer fled the country before trial. Only a few years later was it discovered that Noorah was one of many Saudi students who were enabled to do so — some of whom were represented by Oregon attorney Ginger Mooney.
At that point, their nationality became directly relevant, as did the means by which they escaped the United States and our criminal justice system.
Previously undisclosed records — including bodycam footage that I obtained through court order — shed light on Fallon’s tragic death, the Portland Police Bureau’s response, the court proceeding, and even a bar complaint filed against Mooney. Some of these Saudi students, including Noorah, also used public defense funds intended for the poor.
Almost nothing seems right, and it all has far-reaching implications. To begin with: Was Abdulrahman Noorah even the driver of the car?
That sounds like a futile question to ask so many years after the incident, but it’s one that Fallon’s father, Seth Smart, would like definitively answered. After reviewing these newly released records, Smart stated, “From what I can tell, it isn’t even clear if Mr. Noorah was actually driving when his car killed my daughter.”
The first record to pop out of the police file — after an unnecessarily contentious public records suit filed against Portland— was a 64-page investigation summary. What is most notably absent from this file is any eyewitness affirmation that Noorah was behind the wheel of the Lexus when it struck Fallon.
Several witnesses actually saw the horrific incident, or the car hurtling toward Fallon or speeding away afterwards, but nobody got a good look at the driver at the moment of the crash, or was able to identify him after from the four people inside the car. Read it front to back for yourself.
Witness Gail Turcotte described a person she saw return to the scene of a crime after “2 to 3 minutes,” not necessarily the person driving at the time of the incident. Further, she described the driver as having “long curly hair to the shoulder.” Noorah had a massive dreadlocked hairstyle which went well below his shoulder, not simple shoulder-length curls. To underscore it further, “she couldn’t identify the driver.”
Another witness, Maria Carter, who was one of the bystanders who rushed to Fallon’s aid and called 911, stated that “she didn’t see the driver at the moment the accident occurred,” but that “about three minutes later, the vehicle returned to the scene. A black male with long dreadlocks got out of the driver’s seat of the vehicle and approached the victim,” and asked Carter, “Is she dead?”
Jacob Warner also witnessed the accident, but “didn’t see the driver either until he returned to the scene,” after approximately a minute and a half, describing him as having “long dreadlocks.”
However, witness Kyle Sparks heard the commotion from the crash and rushed to the location in time to see the gold Lexus return. Sparks stated that “the male who got out of the driver’s seat, was a black male, 6’0, thin build, and short hair,” and that the “driver was wearing a red baseball hat with a blue or black t-shirt.” Sparkes stated that “one of the passengers that exited the passenger side of the car was a thin black male, with dreadlocks.”
Because the car was speeding and everything happened so quickly, witness after witness that they did not get a good look at the driver. Matthew Dirk, a classmate of Fallon’s, “didn’t see the driver well enough to identify him” (pg. 35) “because of how traumatic the whole thing was” (pg. 46). Douglas Berry “did not see who the driver was” (pg. 45).
Further, Douglas Simovic and Samuel Cope witnessed part of the car’s path after the impact, which occurred at the intersection of Hawthorne Boulevard and SE 43rd Ave.
However, Simonic was on foot at his business, Atlas Glass, so the car was mostly out of view, and there was ample time for some or all of the passengers to switch seats. The Lexus presumably made a series of turns onto “SE 41st or the Key Bank Parking lot,” SE Madison, and SE 42nd, where “the car came to a stop in the alley way just west of [Atlas Glass].”
Simonic stated that the driver he then saw stopped in the alley was “a black male with long dreadlocks,” whom Simonic admonished the driver “You get back to where it happened.” Simonic could not describe the other people in the car, and Cope “could not provide a good description of the driver.”
Three security cameras captured images of the car racing down Hawthorne before striking Fallon. The footage shows other cars being driven at normal and legal speeds — seemingly half the speed that the Lexus was traveling.
The footage also shows pedestrians reacting to the horrific sound of Fallon being struck by the Lexus.
What the three videos do not show is who was driving the car. The driver is entirely indiscernible.
The three videos are taken from cameras at the SW corner of Hawthorne and 45th, from slightly different vantage points. In the first video, the Lexus can be seen at approximately the 43-second mark; in the second video, at the 25-second mark; and in the third video, at the 34-second mark.
And then there’s the bodycam footage, which the Portland Police Bureau redacted (according to statute) and delivered in two parts.
Problematically, there is no footage of interviews with Noorah or the car’s youngest occupant, 15-year old Abdulaziz Mnsour Bin Jadid, who is named as passenger #3 in the police summary. The other occupants repeatedly claimed that the young man could not speak any English. There is no physical description of him, nor are there any photos of him in the case file.
The first clip is mostly of the police interview of Sultan Fahad Bin Jadid, who claimed to have been asleep in the back seat during the brief trip from one of their apartments to go pick up Chipotle. Sultan was wearing a white tee, and had short hair and some facial hair.
The officer who interviewed Sultan asked, “I want to be very honest on this question, okay? So, who was driving the car?” Sultan responded “Abdulrahman.” The officer asked “Is that the Black guy with the dreadlocks?” Sultan indicated affirmatively.
The officer was apparently unconvinced by this answer, and tried to shake the truth loose, asking “And you’re a hundred percent sure?” followed by “And you wouldn’t lie to me?”
The first clip continued with the same officer’s interview of Mohammed Abdulaziz Boxmati. Mohammed was wearing a black tee and baseball hat, and had short hair and a mustache.
The officer clearly had continuing concerns that Noorah was not the actual driver, and he attempted to draw out the truth. He said “We have to talk to everybody. I’m not saying you will, but people lie to the police. For some reason, I don’t know… scared.”
Then, nearly a half hour into the tape, Mohammed stated that “The driver is my cousin,” and then immediately identified his cousin as Abdulaziz, not Abdulrahman.
Unfortunately, it is clear that the language barrier was a problem during this interview, because the officer did not jump on that conflicting information.
Yet there were further attempts to shake Mohammed from his story as it goes into the second clip. The officer cautioned “Now I want to let you know that people lie to us, okay, and I don’t want you to lie, because if we find out later, okay, then there’s gonna be issues.”
Mohammed, having admitted to being awake at the time of the incident, then proceeded to lie about it, in conflict with eyewitness accounts.
Neither Mohammed nor Sultan understood the word “consent” when asked by police to view their phones — and one of them didn’t understand the word “court.”
On that horrible day, Noorah did not seem to grasp the gravity of the situation, and expressed more concern about the television cameras that had amassed than for Fallon’s death. He also expressed surprise that he could not just get in the car and go to Chipotle, as if he had done nothing wrong.
A contact in Oregon law enforcement tells me that it’s not at all uncommon for someone to take the heat for another’s crimes. It is particularly common in DUIs and other automobile accidents, where there may be priors involved. It isn’t clear what the police can actually do if someone is determined to take the fall for a crime, other than continue to press for the truth.
What could have been at stake for one of the other passengers which would have compelled Noorah to take the heat for them?
The easiest and most obvious answer is that the underage occupant was driving, and the men could have felt that his life would be ruined in a way that an adult’s life would not be.
A more plausible explanation is that the actual driver was from a prominent Saudi Arabian family. Noorah was of a a low rank and at a 2-year college getting a tech degree. His mother was a kindergarten teacher.
When viewed through the lens of everything that happened after that day, in the court case, this theory — that Noorah was outranked — becomes the most probable explanation.
No matter what they may be, Fallon’s family deserves some answers. Her father Seth told me, “It has been almost six years since Fallon was killed. It has been over five years since Mr. Noorah cut his ankle monitor and fled the united states, and my family is not one bit closer to justice or closure.”
He continued, “Since then, with your help, I have had access to police reports, surveillance, and bodycam footage. After reviewing these materials, I believe it is abundantly clear that the investigation wasn’t handled properly from the get go. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia may have funded Mr. Noorah’s escape from the United States and facing trial, but it wasn’t the Saudi government who waited 48 hours after he cut his ankle monitor to report it. It was a Multnomah County Sheriff’s Deputy.”
“My family and justice demand something more be done,” he concluded. And he’s right.
Part II of this series will delve into the criminal case against Noorah, including the case file in Multnomah County Circuit Court, Noorah’s escape before trial, the mishandling of bail by all involved, and the misuse of public funds.
Part III of this series will discuss the fallout and lack of accountability related to this case and those of the other Saudi students; and the ethical and legal responsibilities of attorney Ginger Mooney.